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Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously rules laws limiting governor's emergency orders stand

The ruling now allows laws that limit Beshear's emergency powers to go into effect after an injunction blocking the laws was granted in March.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Supreme Court has unanimously ruled a temporary injunction blocking new laws that limit Gov. Andy Beshear's emergency authority powers was "improper."

In March, the injunction was granted to Beshear's legal team by the Franklin Circuit Court. The state's highest court is now sending the ruling back to the Franklin Circuit Court and ordering the new laws to go into effect. 

The 34-page order said that the challenged legislation was lawfully passed and that Beshear's compliant "does not present a substantial legal question that would necessitate staying the effectiveness of legislation" and that "the Franklin Circuit Court abused its discretion in finding otherwise."

Saturday’s Supreme Court ruling now allows the following laws to go into effect:

  • House Bill 1, a wide-ranging "reopen bill," would allow businesses to reopen if they follow CDC guidelines
  • Senate Bill 1 which limits the governor's emergency orders to 30 days unless it was extended by the General Assembly. It also prevents the governor from issuing any new executive orders related to the same emergency without also receiving approval from the state legislature.
  • Senate Bill 2 which gives the General Assembly more say in emergency regulations. 

The unanimous ruling sided with Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who filed the challenge to the injunction. This comes on the heels of Cameron filing the latest challenge to a Beshear executive order, a mask mandate in schools. 

Thursday, a federal judge ruled Gov. Andy Beshear's executive order requiring masks in Kentucky schools is unlawful. However, the Kentucky Board of Education's mask mandate for public schools, which is separate from Beshear's order, is not impacted by the judge's ruling and remains in effect. 

Gov. Andy Beshear's office released a statement following the ruling.

"The court’s order will dissolve Kentucky’s entire state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. It either eliminates or puts at risk large amounts of funding, steps we have taken to increase our health care capacity, expanded meals for children and families, measures to fight COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, worker’s compensation for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 as well as the ability to fight price gouging. It will further prevent the governor from taking additional steps such as a general mask mandate. The administration will work to determine whether the General Assembly would extend the state of emergency as we assess whether to call a special session. The Governor has had the courage to make unpopular decisions in order to keep Kentuckians safe – the court has removed much of his ability to do so moving forward. If called in to a special session, we hope the General Assembly would do the right thing."

A statement from the Kentucky Education Association:

“It is unfortunate that the Kentucky Supreme Court had no choice but to uphold hyper-partisan actions of the 2021 General Assembly. Today, the coronavirus delta variant is raging across the Commonwealth, active COVID cases are at record levels, available ICU beds have reached near capacity, and in-person learning has been canceled in some school districts. Politicizing public health policy is obviously dangerous. Emergency action by Gov. Beshear to mandate masking in our schools may have very well have averted a far worse health disaster for our students and their families.”

The Republican Party of Kentucky released the following statement on today’s ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court:

“This ruling is a victory for the separation of powers and the rule of law as enshrined in our Constitution. I am proud of our Republican lawmakers and constitutional officers for fighting against Gov. Beshear’s executive overreach every step of the way, and we are happy to see these efforts yield results for the people of Kentucky. 

The following is a statement from Colmon Elridge, Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party:

 “Over the course of the last 18 months, Governor Beshear has worked with the medical community and public health specialists to protect Kentuckians. Govenor Beshear’s smart, decisive, and moral actions have saved countless lives across the commonwealth while Republicans in Frankfort have refused to take any responsibility for making hard decisions to keep people safe. 

As Kentuckians, we continue to believe the Republicans are wrong and that these steps have saved lives. Hopefully, Daniel Cameron and the GOP supermajority will finally do the right thing and stop playing politics with this virus and work with the governor to keep Kentucky safe.”


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